Declan Rice

Declan Rice shows again why the Premier League big boys are circling

Toby Cudworth
Declan Rice controlled the game for West Ham
Declan Rice controlled the game for West Ham / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

West Ham's narrow 1-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park wasn't a game that had you on the edge of your seat.

It was a rather insipid affair, truth be told, with the hosts sorely missing the quality of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison up front. There wasn't any kind of zip or energy to the Toffees' performance, and it led to a disjointed display that silenced the home crowd for almost the entire game.

But absences weren't the only reason for Everton's poor, lethargic display.

Indeed, there was one West Ham player who stood head and shoulders above the rest throughout the 90 minutes, controlling the play from the off and marshalling the game the way he wanted it to be played.

That player, unsurprisingly, was captain Declan Rice.

Courted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and others, it's not news to us that Rice is a top-class player. He's even been mentioned in dispatches when it comes to the first targets new moneybags Newcastle may look to go after, though his representatives have been quick to quash any such link.

So what makes Rice so good? Well, he's got all the qualities a big club would look for in a midfielder. He's as fit as any top star, understands the game tremendously, is more than capable with the ball at both feet, and rarely puts in a performance below 7/10.

Here, Rice was the standout player - with his 8/10 rating predominantly dumbed down because Everton really weren't up to much.

Declan Rice
Declan Rice rarely misses a beat for club or country / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Over the course of the 90 minutes, Rice had 94 touches, completed 71 of his 78 passes and recovered the ball 10 times. He also won three tackles and created two chances for West Ham.

The statistics make for good reading, sure, but Rice is one of those players that doesn't rely on the numbers to validate how good he is. They help understand his impact on the game but you can grasp that by just watching and appreciating him.

Rice made many of those interceptions at vital times, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time for West Ham. It's never a coincidence when a player does that, it's just a natural talent that the top players possess - an annoying one if you're the opposition.

What was more impressive here is that Rice has operated in a more advanced midfield role of late.

He's wanted to add more goals to his game, driving forward with the ball and looking to get into the opposition penalty area, and has already netted twice in the Europa League.

Here, though, West Ham made the switch back to a system they are more familiar with. Rice was back in the sitting role - allowing Tomas Soucek to have his reins unleashed instead - and he didn't look as if he'd been away for a single minute. It was a plan that had clearly been discussed and thought through with David Moyes and it worked a treat.

Everton didn't ever pressurise Rice, allowing West Ham to be in complete control from minute one. The Hammers shielded possession away from Everton and completely took the wind out of the sails of the home support.

Rice was the driving force behind that, and in truth, was playing a completely different level of game to those around him.

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